Wednesday will see the Federal Reserve unveiling its policy verdict alongside interest rate projections. BlackRock’s Rick Rieder notes a reassessment among investors regarding the timing of potential interest rate cuts, as tackling inflation’s final hurdles proves challenging.

Amidst the ongoing two-day policy conclave, Rieder, BlackRock’s Chief Investment Officer of Global Fixed Income, underscores Fed officials’ cautious stance on rate reductions. He points to persistent inflationary pressures, particularly in the services segment of the U.S. economy, suggesting that Chairman Powell might hint at a June commencement for rate adjustments.

Rieder emphasizes Powell’s inclination towards rate reduction, given the current distance from monetary equilibrium following efforts to combat inflation.

While expectations favor the Fed maintaining its benchmark rate at a 22-year high, futures markets indicate a 56% probability of rate decreases starting in June. Rieder anticipates three quarter-point cuts throughout 2024, though a deviation from this forecast could trigger market disappointment.

Rieder also underscores the significance of the Fed’s economic projections release, particularly regarding longer-term interest rate estimates. He suggests potential upward revisions, indicating prolonged higher interest rates.

The Fed’s persistent policy rate, substantially above long-term projections, aims to curb inflation towards a 2% target. Recent CPI data show inflation at 3.2% annually, with core inflation at 3.8%, emphasizing ongoing inflationary concerns.

Rieder highlights the impact of higher rates on lower-income borrowers, local banks, and commercial real estate, underscoring potential strains on consumer spending and financial institutions.

Traditional market responses to Fed rate hikes have evolved, reflecting a shift towards a services-oriented economy and reduced sensitivity in equities, particularly Big Tech stocks, to interest rate changes.

Despite rising Treasury yields, the S&P 500 remains robust, buoyed by gains from tech giants. Rieder advocates seeking yield in high-yield corporate credit and securitized debt globally, citing the BlackRock Flexible Income ETF’s attractive annual yield of 6.6%.

With a focus on credit quality and attractive returns, Rieder sees ongoing opportunities in fixed income markets, despite tightening credit spreads.

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